« 上一頁繼續 »
stitution of our own happy choice, there being none to make us afraid.
But what has been our sense or improvement of those numerous and invaluable blessings, which the Almighty, with so liberal a hand, hath even heaped upon us? Let us not be alarmed at the question; nor shrink from the answer.
May it not be asked, then, of what avail is it that we boast of our frames of government, and that we are blessed with civil Liberty, according to our highest conceptions of the name; if we know not how to respect the Laws, and to distinguish Liberty from Licentiousness? If there remain those among us, who from pride, self-interest, and the last of power, cannot rest contented with a wise and efficacious system of joint government; but still pursuing something new, and adapted to their own phantasies, seek rather no government at all, or a government of such variant and discordant particles, as to produce a Babel of confusion, rather than a Jerusalem, or city of God, happy and united within itself!
What avails it that God hath given us peace with all foreign states and powers, if with difficulty we are to be restrained from rushing voluntarily into the horrid scenes of blood and devastation in the old world, from which God hath graciously set us at a distance; and where our feeble strength would scarcely weigh a grain in either balance, but might inevitably involve us in self-destruction?
What avails it that we are delivered from one late and great calamity, if we are not delivered from Sin, which is the greatest calamity of all ?
What avails it that God hath blessed us with a fruitful country, a happy climate and bountiful seasons; if instead of Industry, Moderation of mind, Thankfulness to Heaven, and a due improvement of His blessings, we are sapping the foundations of all our future happiness as a people, by Luxury, Pride, Idleness, Dissipation and the eager pursuit of false Pleasure; with its never-failing attendants--Infidelity and the scandalous neglect of Religion, and profanation of the Lord's day!
This was one of the crying sins of the Jews, for which the severest judgments were denounced against them," I saw, in those days, in Judah," says Nehemiah, “ some treading wine presses on the " Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; “ as also wine, grapes and figs, and all manner of bur" dens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the “ Sabbath day—And there dwelt also men of Tyre “ therein, who brought fish, and all manner of ware, " and sold on the Sabbath, to the children of Judah, " and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the no“ bles of Judah, and said unto them-what evil thing o is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath day? “ Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God “ bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? " Yet you bring more wrath upon Israel, by profan“ ing the Sabbath*.”
But, notwithstanding all these judgments, this evil continued among that people until our Saviour's days, who testified his indignation against it, by entering
the temple, and having made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out that sold oxen, and sheep, and doves, and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew their tables*.
But what is all this to what we now behold? the mere selling the necessaries of life and the exchanging of money, which although restricted by our laws, evils of a more aggravated nature are tolerated, or at least not restrained or corrected? The Sabbath, by many is turned into their chief day of idleness, recreation, parties of pleasure, sinful sports and diversion, gaming, feasting, rioting and all manner of diversion! Shall I not visit for these things saith the Lord, and shall not my soul be avenged on such a people as this?
O ye Rulers and Judges of the land! ye masters and heads of families, among whom, blessed be God, we have yet illustrious examples of those who honour God's holy name and the places of his worship! I know you will bear with the expostulations, which the faithful discharge of my duty requires on this solemn day!
If the Jews, when under the government of God himself, and especially instructed by his inspired messengers and prophets, came to humble themselves under his judgments, and to implore his mercy and renew their covenant of obedience with Him; I say, if then they thought it their duty, to testify their sincerity with an oath, and to swear with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and
• John, chap. ii. 14, 15.
with cornets, “ That whosoever would not seek the “ Lord God of their fathers, whether small or great, “ man or woman, should be put to death”—and if this punishment was inflicted on those who continued in idolatry, which was in some sort the acknowledgment of a god, or gods, although false ones—what punishment can be due to those who not only discountenance and refuse the worship of the true God, but openly profane, blaspheme, or deny His holy name?
I know, my Brethren, the nature of persecution, and, I trust, the nature also of that civil and religi. ous Liberty which our happy constitution ensures to all. But the abuse of privileges, and that licentiousness, civil or religious, which dissolves the bands of society, and tends to the destruction both of soul and body, are rertainly not the objects of toleration under any go!ernment. If it were possible for men, of the most abundant estate, or in the higher stations of life, and who claim the unrestrained right of doing what they please with their own—I say, if it were possible for them to indulge every luxury, folly, vanity, and vice, which the corrupt heart and under. standing could devise (taking their chance of another world)—I say again, if this were possible, without poisoning society by their fatal example in the present world—there might be some plea for their liberty of doing with their own fortune, and with their souls and bodies, according to the lusts of their own will. But would this consist with the dignity of a man, or the exercise of his rational faculties, even if he could believe that there was no world but he pre
sent; and that, after the longest life spent in the vani. ties here on earth, he was to lie down in the dust, like the beasts that perish, and that the trump of God would never rouse his sleeping ashes to a future judgment?-No! and I am well persuaded that I do not at present, address a man of this belief. On the contrary, I rather trust, that there is not a person who now hears me, that does not believe he was sent into this world for nobler purposes, than merely to vegetate, to rot, and to die.—Wherefore, then, let us all strive to fill the sphere assigned us, with dignity and, diligence. If the supreme Wisdom has called us to the inferior stations of bodily labour, we are there. with to be content. It is honourable and subservient to virtue; for not the meanest calling but hath a blessing promised of God; and not the most exalted, but hath its cares, its toils, and temptations. Again, if, by the indulgence of heaven, we are released from the necessity of bodily labour, yet not less is the sphere of duty, nor less the joy attending the faithful discharge of it. There are liberal and ingenuous employments suited to the highest parts and estateGo, order your affairs aright. Train up your children in the fear of God. Be an example of righteousness to your houshold and to society. Husband your time and your fortune for the public good. Minister out of your abundance to the necessities of others. Be hospitable; be kind; be solicitous for the advancement of justice and virtue; in all which, you may be serious without gloom; cheerful without levity; and active without dissipation. For our religion enjoins no duty but what is for our own welfare; and denies